With hope for a multi-venue festival high, the 39 Days of July will still need to start small indoors while organizers wait for new provincial COVID-19 guidelines to be announced on July 1.
The 39 Days begins on June 25 at the Duncan Showroom, where a maximum of 40 guests will be permitted.
“I believe the first week June 25 till June 30 will be indoors and we trust things will open up with the July 1 announcements so we can implement our outdoor plan,” said artistic director Longevity John Faulkner, adding that he’s “chompin’ at the bit” to get going.
The event kicks off with an opening invitation at noon sharp by Della Sylvester Rice. At 12:10 p.m. Cowichan’s own Chuck McCandless takes over with his folk music.
“This Irish singer/songwriter boated from Ireland and landed up in Manitoba,” reports Faulkner. “[He] was there in the beginnings of the Winnipeg Folk Festival and uses his vocals and long necked banjo in a Pete Seeger-ish kinda way.”
Following McCandless, is singer/songwriter Naomi Payan, who according to Faulkner, “always sets the bar on this opening day slot, listen and find out why.”
Payan plays from 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. when she’ll be relieved by Scott Owen with Brian Gauci.
“A veteran singer/songwriter who always bounces back, brings his good friend Brian on guitar to accent his songwriting and specific choice of cover tunes,” said Faulkner.
That’s just the first three acts! There are six more to follow, that evening, with Leenie Beenie (3 p.m.) , Malakai (4 p.m.), James Meyer (5 p.m.), Hardware Girls (three daughters and their mom!) (6 p.m.), and Heartwood (7 p.m.) playing an hour set each before Daniel Lapp and Adam Dobres wrap up the evening starting at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday features another nine performers, including standouts Eugene Smith at 5 p.m., who has held back a trip to Ontario to “finally perform at the 39 Days of July in the town he calls home”, and reggae in the evening at 8:30 p.m. with Cheko and the Positive Rebellion.
On Sunday there are many treats to be had with locals Lindsay Elzinga, Mary Egan, Amanda Nixon, Naomi Payan, Jaclyn Childs and Cara McCandless taking the stage during the day. The evening program kicks off with Victoria’s Steph McPherson, and then concludes with two powerhouse women taking the stage who will be no strangers to Cowichan audiences: Joelle Rabu and Shirley Gnome. Rabu and Nico take the stage at 7 p.m. with a world of European cabaret-style tunes. Cowichan audiences will remember Rabu headlining as Edith Piaf in Tonight Piaf, which has played to packed houses at the Chemainus Theatre Festival. Gnome brings the Juno-nominated (and sometimes raunchy) comedy to the stage at 8:30 p.m.
There’ll be no shortage of acts to watch in all genres over the course of the 39-day event, which will ultimately be held both at the Showroom and in Charles Hoey Park. Fear not, all the shows will also be livestreamed on the Showroom’s YouTube page.
Main acts will play at 8:30 p.m. in the park and this year feature: Sarah Smith (June 30), Ryan McMahon (July 7), Stephen Fearing (July 14), Leeroy Stagger (July 21) and David Essig (July 28).
“Even though it is a stellar line up we are hoping not too many people show up (weird) and cause us to go over our limits so to that point we will be live streaming these concerts from the park to wherever you wish to be,” Faulkner noted.
Walkabout Wednesdays and Lunch in the Park will be in the park, as well as other special programs.
“All of these scheduled musical events are designed to bring community together to celebrate our diverse local/Canadian and international music scenes, to give the opportunity to meet our neighbours, share a common experience and hopefully be able to now greet each other with a friendly smile on any future happen chance connection,” Faulkner said. “We are proving that downtown Duncan and the Cowichan Valley is… proving once again that we do live in ‘a rather fun place to be’.”